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A Dream Come True

Calvin MacLean and Aram Demirjian For years, Calvin MacLean, producing artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre, has dreamed of collaborating with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) on a project. Thanks to a grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation, his dream is finally a reality.

Next August and September, players on the Clarence Brown stage and performers in the KSO will collaborate on a production of Leonard Bernstein’s acclaimed operetta, Candide.

“Leonard Bernstein is the most indispensable figure in the history of American concert music,” says Aram Demirjian, KSO music director. “It brings us great joy to be able to celebrate his legacy through the performance of Candide, one of his most distinctive and enduring masterworks.”

A number of derivative works came from Voltaire’s satirical novella, released in France in 1759. In Bernstein’s musical, a young man wanders “the best of all possible worlds” only to find war, destruction and loss. Separated from his beloved, Candide’s hard-won survival ends in a joyous reconciliation.

Leonard Bernstein revamped the musical Candide several times after its London premiere in 1956. When Bernstein’s “final approved” version of this comedic, poignant story reappeared on Broadway in 1989 with a full score, a revival was born. This version continues to be revived and performed in opera and professional theaters and is the score and libretto the KSO/CBT will perform in 2018, known as “the Scottish Opera version.”

The production is made possible by a generous grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation, whose mission is to support world-class performing arts projects in not-for-profit professional theaters throughout the United States.

“We’ve been helping theaters all over the country make their dreams come true,” says Cockrum, a theater enthusiast who started his foundation with proceeds from winning the Powerball Lottery in 2014 on a ticket he purchased in Knoxville. “I’m very glad to help make this amazing project possible right here in my hometown and look forward to the production.”

Other grant recipients of The Roy Cockrum Foundation include such prestigious theaters as Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Washington DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and The Acting Company of New York.

“The more our local artistic institutions work together, the stronger our community will be,” Demirjian says. “We could not be more grateful to The Roy Cockrum Foundation for supporting this renewed collaboration between the KSO and CBT.”

Directed by Calvin MacLean and conducted by Aram Demirjian, the performances will take place August 29 – September 16, 2018, on the mainstage of the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.